The Bengals defense has not looked good through the first 2 weeks of the season. They’re 30th in the league in points allowed (35.5 per game), and 30th in yards allowed per game (434.5). They’ve given up 8.36 yards per play on 1st down, which is last in the league.
Interestingly, they have faced the same two opponents that the Eagles have faced: the Browns and the Ravens. Here’s the difference between what the Eagles defense was able to do against Browns QB Brandon Weeden and Ravens QB Joe Flacco in each game, and how the Bengals D fared against both QBs:
|Brandon Weeden||Comp||Att||Yards||YPA||TD||INT||QB rating|
|Week 1 vs Philly||12||35||118||3.4||0||4||5.1|
|Week 2 vs Cincy||26||37||322||8.7||2||0||114.9|
|Joe Flacco||Comp||Att||Yards||YPA||TD||INT||QB Rating|
|Week 1 vs Cincy||21||29||299||10.3||2||0||128.4|
|Week 2 vs Philly||22||42||232||5.5||1||1||66.8|
The biggest offender of the Bengals poor defense this season is their secondary. They recognized a hole at CB when they drafted Dre Kirkpatrick out of Alabama, but Kirkpatrick missed almost all of training camp with a bum knee, which he re-aggravated just prior to the Bengals final preseason game. He won’t play tomorrow. The Bengals will also be without their leading tackler last season, Thomas Howard, who tore his ACL in practice.
The Bengals, like most teams around the NFL so far this year, are going with a nickel look on the majority of their snaps. That, of course, is often dictated by the personnel the opposing offense puts on the field, and so far, opposing offenses have been making the Bengals put extra DBs out there. As they should. Their top 4 CBs are Leon Hall, Nate Clements, Terence Newman, and Pacman Jones. Hall was beaten a number of times against the Ravens Week 1, but I didn’t think his coverage was all that bad. On the first play of the game, the Ravens hit a 50 yarder to Torrey Smith over Hall, but the ball was placed in a perfect spot, and Hall didn’t have any inside safety help. It’s Clements and Newman that are the weak links.
Clements will turn 33 in December, and he looks like his age. In the Ravens game, he had 1-on-1 coverage against Smith, it looked like he knew he couldn’t cover him, and interfered in the end zone. He saw the flag and was about to complain out of instinct, then didn’t, because he knew he was guilty. But it boggles my mind that Terence Newman is still getting meaningful NFL snaps. Newman was absolutely atrocious down the stretch last season in Dallas. Beginning against Miami on Thanksgiving last season, teams really started to pick on Newman in the passing game. Per Pro Football Focus, here are the targets Newman got in the Cowboys’ last 6 games in 2011:
|Week 17 (NYG)||9||8||174||1|
|Week 16 (Philly)||7||4||72||0|
|Week 15 (Bucs)||1||1||6||0|
|Week 14 (NYG)||10||4||66||0|
|Week 13 (Cards)||8||7||117||0|
|Week 12 (Miami)||9||5||100||1|
The safeties are also a mess for Cincy. Taylor Mays was benched after Week 1, and Jeromy Miles took his place. Miles did not look good against the Browns.
Really the only player on the Bengals defense that looks impressive so far is DT Geno Atkins. In Week 1, Atkins had one play where he made Ravens RG Bobbie Williams completely whiff on him, and sacked Joe Flacco. He had another play that was very impressive. On the Ravens’ first drive, the Bengals ran a stunt, and Atkins got matched up on C Matt Birk. Atkins basically turned Birk into his own personal tackling sled, and pushed Birk back into Flacco with ease for the sack. Here’s the Bengals’ alignment. The player circled is Atkins:
Here they are, running their stunt, as I promised a second ago:
Birk engages Atkins at the 25 yard line:
And Atkins bulls him back to the 29, when he deposits Birk on his backside, and Flacco is meat:
If the Redskins OL is to give anyone extra attention, Atkins would be the obvious first choice. Carlos Dunlap will also likely make his 2012 debut this week, which should help the Bengals.
Offensively, the Bengals have been pretty good. A lot of people think that AJ Green is among the best WRs in the game, and I wouldn’t disagree. They also have a very talented TE in Jermaine Gresham. Green and Gresham don’t have the stats yet this season, but I suspect the Redskins’ shaky secondary will have a lot of difficulty dealing with those two this week. The one player that does have impressive numbers so far is receiver Andrew Hawkins. Last week, Danny Amendola was able to catch passes without any Redskins in the same zip code. If the Bengals can find a way to get the ball to Hawkins, he is a major threat in the open field.
One thing that the Bengals do well is double-team in the run game. In Week 1 against the Ravens, the player that the Bengals decided to attack was DE Pernell McPhee, who did not hold up so well against double-teams from RT Andre Smith and rookie first round pick RG Kevin Zeitler. Here are the Bengals doubling and sealing McPhee:
…and opening up a monster hole when McPhee can’t anchor:
Here’s McPhee again (circled), later in the game:
He’s blown off the ball by Smith and Zeitler in comical fashion, opening up another wide lane for the RB:
McPhee plays the same position as Redskins DE Jarvis Jenkins, who will be making his first career start tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how well he can anchor against Smith and Zeitler. Big test for him in the run game.
Game prediction: I don’t see a lot of defense in this one, but I think the Redskins have a significant edge in their front 7, even with Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker out. High scoring contest, and the Redskins pull out a fun one, 34-31.